Saturday, November 17, 2018

THE ROCK HUDSON BLOGATHON: Has Anybody Seen My Gal (1952)


Crystal of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Michaela of Love Letters to Old Hollywood are giving us the opportunity to celebrate the one and only Rock Hudson with this blogathon running November 17, 18 and 19. Click HERE or HERE to join the fun.


Publicity shot of Universal-International's young leading man Rock Hudson kicking up his heels in The Charleston for the 1920s set comedy Has Anybody Seen My Gal released the same year as his breakout role of Trey Wilson in Bend of the River.


Director Douglas Sirk's career from the study of law and art in Germany to Hollywood acclaim and influence brought him to Universal Studios in the 1950s where his output included the polished yet homey family comedy we look at here, to heartrending classic melodramas.

Working at the same studio brings directors and actors together often, and in the case of Has Anybody Seen My Gal this was one of two with Piper Laurie, the third of four with Gigi Perreau, the first of three with William Reynolds, and the first of nine with Rock Hudson. The collaborations of Sirk and Hudson would bring many challenges and successes to both and include Battle Hymn, Taza, Son of Cochise, and All That Heaven Allows.

Eleanor H. Porter (Pollyanna) wrote the story used for the basis of our movie and the screenwriter Joseph Hoffman borrowed a plot from one of his earlier films called Young as You Feel. The lovely Technicolor cinematography is by Clifford Stine (This Island Earth) and the music by Herman Stein. The soundtrack is filled with Tin Pan Alley hits of yesteryear that bolster the nostalgic feel the 1950s audience had for the 1920s.

Piper Laurie, Lynn Bari

Harriet Blaisdell played by Lynn Bari (Sun Valley Serenade) is a discontented housewife. Her husband Charles played by Larry Gates (Guiding Light) owns and operates a drug store and the family often has trouble making ends meet. Harriet's late mother married for love while her spurned suitor went on to become a millionaire. Harriet followed suit, but wants and expects better for her eldest daughter Millicent played by Piper Laurie (The Hustler). Harriet has her heart set on Millicent marrying the town's spoiled rich kid Carl Pennock played by Skip Homeier (The Tall T). All Millicent wants is Dan Stebbins played by Rock Hudson (Pillow Talk). Dan works for her dad and he's the bee's knees!

Samuel Fulton played by Charles Coburn (Kings Row) is the aforementioned spurned suitor of Mrs. Blaisdell's late mother. Unemcumbered by a family he went out into the world and made his fortune. The crotchety hypochondriac wants to leave his money to the family of his long-ago sweetheart. His doctor played by Willard Waterman (The Great Gildersleeve) and attorney played by Frank Ferguson (Johnny Guitar) put the idea into Fulton's head that he should return to his hometown and check the family out in person before bequeathing his fortune. They actually just want the old man to be up and doing something.

Charles Coburn, Gigi Perreau

Fulton, using the name of John Smith, gets himself ensconced in the Blaisdell household as a boarder and at the drugstore as a new soda jerker. The youngest Blaisdell, Roberta played by nine-year-old Gigi Perreau (Shadow on the Wall) takes to Mr. Smith right away, as does the family mutt called Penny. Roberta/Gigi is an appealing package of personality and energy. Her scenes with Smith/Coburn are a lot of fun.

After a while, Fulton decides to send a little of the green stuff the Blaisdell's way. Did I say a little? The cheque for $100,000 sends the family into a tizzy. Harriet takes charge in a big way. She urges Charles to sell his store. After all, a mere shopkeeper in their exalted social position? She breaks up Millicent and Dan's engagement. Dan is one of the proud types who doesn't want it to be said he's marrying Millicent for her money.

Charles Coburn, Rock Hudson

While Dan and "Gramps", as he calls Mr. Smith, adjust to working under less than ideal conditions with the skinflint of a new owner, Mr. Quinn played by Forrest Lewis (The Great Gildersleeve), they share lodgings. Harriet insisted on buying the biggest house in town where there was no room for Mr. Smith nor room for Penny the pooch who also moved in with Dan when replaced by two French Poodles.

William Reynolds, Larry Gates

Howard, the son of the Blaisdell household played by William Reynolds (There's Always Tomorrow) had been following his mother's lead and aiming to fit in with a fast and richer crowd. When he got into trouble with some gamblers it was Mr. Smith who anonymously came to his rescue. Howard was smart enough to figure out who his benefactor was and smart enough to learn his lesson.

Mr. Smith got Millicent out of a couple of scraps as well with the irresponsible Carl Pennock, and poor Smith kept ending up in court because of his largess. Eventually, the Blaisdell's ran through their money and their unknown benefactor did them the greatest favour of all by refusing to cough up anything more to be them out of the hole.

Rock Hudson, Piper Laurie

It was back to the comfortable if crowded home, and back to the store with Dan about to join the family as son-in-law and the business as a partner. Mr. Fulton remained Mr. Smith to the family as he said his goodbyes.

This charming family comedy is what I call a Sunday matinee movie due to its popping up on local television on that day and being such a comfort to watch. The movie is gorgeous to look at, with lovely and subtle transitions from summer to fall to winter. The cast is attractive and pleasant, and the problems are not life-threatening, but easily and expectedly solved to the satisfaction of the audience. The costumes by Rosemary Odell (To Kill a Mockingbird) are good looking as well as capturing the era.

James Dean

The extras are packed with young people doing the Charleston and giving out with the slang of the time. There is a very brief and amusing scene with James Dean as a customer giving Gramps a hard time at the soda fountain. You will recall that Dean and Hudson will team up in a "little" picture in a few years.

Stage and screen actor Charles Coburn had been in the acting game for decades. I wonder what he thought of the young leading man who was his co-star here, or even imagined that a cult would build up around that youngster with one scene.

Piper Laurie, Rock Hudson
Millicent sings Gimme a Little Kiss to Dan in this scene. It is adorable!

Rock Hudson had some more westerns to make for Universal-International in the following years and soon he and Piper Laurie would leave behind the Charleston to cavort in the Arabian adventure The Golden Blade. The next level of Hudson's stardom would be reached in 1954 with Magnificent Obsession. A-level classics are in Hudson's future, but there is a lot of joy to be found in his early career.













26 comments:

  1. Didn't know Sirk did comedy but I guess it shouldn't come as a great surprise. Piper Laurie looks great here.

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    1. Good morning! I picture you, like me, coffee in hand stumbling to the computer and yawning. On the other hand, maybe you're a better morning person.

      Sirk had a lovely light touch with these early pictures for Universal. Piper does look lovely, doesn't she? It is interesting to see where careers began and where they will go.

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  2. I'm more of a tea drinker. I like the smell of coffee but not the taste.

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  3. That sounds like a nice comforting movie. I need more of those. Charles Coburn is an actor I've always liked. He usually plays nice guys so I was very surprised to see him in Kings Row as the sadistic doctor. James Dean's outfit is hilarious.

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    1. Coburn could give us whatever the script demanded, but I do love him in these lovable old millionaire roles.

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  4. This sounds like a real gem, and who isn't always up for one of those! Like Rich said in his comment, I didn't realize Douglas Sirk had experience in comedy. I might have to se aside my anti-Sirk bias and give this a go! When I do, I know I'll be thanking you.

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    1. Let me know how you find this period of Sirk. I have big old mushy spot in the heart for them.

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  5. This really looks fun is it by chance streaming any place? Otherwise I will stalk TCM's!

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    1. It's currently up on YouTube and it looks like a gorgeous copy. I think it would be a terrific Thanksgiving movie.

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  6. Charles Coburn seemed to specialize in playing cigar-smoking, crafty curmudgeons. He’s right at home playing the Blaisdells’ secret guardian angel, getting son Howard out of gambling trouble and playing matchmaker to Millicent and nice guy/soda jerk Dan (Rock Hudson).

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    1. Indeed. If possible, he's even more adorable than in The Devil and Miss Jones. I think it's the combination of Technicolor and Gigi Perreau.

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  7. Lovely article. I must admit that I've never seen this movie, but it sounds really enjoyable. I really like how you concentrated on a film from his early career.

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    1. It took a lot of work for Rock to become an overnight sensation, but the work in this movie looks like a lot of fun.

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  8. I can't believe I've never heard of this! And I do so love Charles Coburn. I'm going to be on the lookout for this film thanks to you.

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  9. It is most enjoyable and that old scene-stealer is at his best!

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  10. I watched it on youtube and it's wonderful. Thanks for the recommendation. I don't watch enough movies like this. If you have any more recommendations for movies like this, let me know. :)

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    1. I'll work up a list and get back to you. Every once in a while you have got to walk on the sunny side of the street.

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  11. This is such an adorable movie. Rock Hudson as a 1920s soda jerk? Yes, please! And Charles Coburn is just delightful. I always love discovering the films Sirk did besides his '50s melodramas. It's so interesting to me that those have completely defined his career when they're really just a snippet of what he did.

    As always, thanks for contributing to our blogathon!

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    1. My pleasure. Thanks so much for hosting. The blogathon was a great deal of fun.

      Yes, to me, there are so many interesting facets to Sirk's career beyond his fascinating melodramas. A most accomplished artist.

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  12. I had completely forgotten this was a Sirk picture - it is so unlike his other films! My sister and I came across this by accident last year and loved it so much. It reminds me in some ways like "Margie" - another delightful 1920s period comedy. And isn't Charles Coburn the greatest?

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    1. There's something so innocent and joyful about this movie. I love coming across something that is just fun. And Margie is a particular favourite of mine as well.

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  13. Paddy Lee, I so very much enjoyed your write-up of such a delightful Douglas Sirk movie. Because of your writing, I viewed HAS ANYBODY SEEN MY GAL last night for the first time. Charles Coburn was such a wonderful actor. I was impressed with Lynn Bari's comedic skills and I enjoyed seeing her acting in a role, other than the "other woman" type. A lovely "fun" movie for the whole family. See it.

    Thanks Paddy Lee

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    1. I'm so pleased another fan for this film was born.

      My dad never could understand why Lynn Bari hadn't become a bigger star. The more I see of her, the more I agree with that opinion.

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  14. I feel like I saw this when I was a teen, but I only remember little snippets here and there, so I think I need to watch it again! You made this sound really cute and fun :-)

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    1. A lot of those movies I watched on TV during my tween and teen years tend to run together. It's a wonderful glow of Hollywood, but it is certainly fun to rediscover them individually. This movie definitely falls under the category of FUN.

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